This week, real-estate broker Matt James was unveiled as the next Bachelor leading man — a surprising decision since James has yet to appear on any Bachelor Nation program, as he was set to compete during Clare Crawley’s forthcoming Bachelorette season. The announcement came after dozens of franchise alums signed a petition to demand a more diverse contestant pool, most prominently former Bachelorette lead Rachel Lindsay, who threatened to leave the franchise if its diversity issues weren’t fixed. Lindsay has now commented on James’s casting as the first black Bachelor, which, despite the historic moment, she has mixed feelings about. “Congrats to Matt James. I am happy to see that a black man was cast after 18 years and 40 seasons. I believe it is a step in the right direction,” Lindsay wrote on Twitter. “I would be remiss to not point out that based on the current climate, it feels like a knee-jerk reaction and a result of societal pressure. This announcement, without any further commitments regarding diversity, sweepingly brushes deeper issues under the rug.”
“Until we see action to address the systemic racism within the franchise, the casting news today is equivalent to the trend of posting a black box on your social media account without other steps taken to dismantle the systems of injustice,” Lindsay added. “I look forward to hearing more about the additional efforts the franchise plans to make towards change.”
ABC hailed its decision to cast James on Friday, with the network saying that they got to know him well in the lead-up to Crawley’s season. “We know we have a responsibility to make sure the love stories we’re seeing onscreen are representative of the world we live in and we are proudly in service to our audience,” a statement read. “This is just the beginning and we will continue to take action with regard to diversity issues on this franchise.” It’s unclear when James’s Bachelor season will begin filming, as Crawley’s Bachelorette season remains delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic.